BOULDER — The keys to a juggernaut offense have been handed to Fairview sophomore Liam O'Brien, and like just about any kid approaching his 16th birthday, it takes a little while to get used to driving a high-powered vehicle.
O'Brien — making his first high school varsity start at quarterback after standout Aidan Atkinson suffered a season-ending thumb injury last weekend — and the Knights couldn't manage a first down in their first two possessions on Friday night at Recht Field.
But then the dam cracked opened a little thanks in part to Fairview's defense keeping Denver East in check.
After being blanked early, FHS scored touchdowns on its next three consecutive possessions en route to a 31-7 defeat of East in their 5A state playoff opener.
A week following a strong second-half performance in a rout of Rocky Mountain, O'Brien threw for 238 yards and one touchdown, completing 18 of his 38 throws.
"The team has always got my back so I feel confident whenever I'm with them. It's always a blast," O'Brien said. "They stepped up, so it was a great game today."
Coach Tom McCartney certainly liked the end result.
"I think it went great because we won a playoff game," he said.
"Liam made some big-time throws that helped us move chains and get us some momentum back."
The bottom line was that ninth-seeded Fairview won its eighth straight game, improving to 10-1. Twenty-four seed Denver East finished 8-3 after rebounding from a 2-8 record in 2017.
Senior Bryce DesJardins, who took periodic snaps at QB as well, helped keep the Fairview offense moving on Friday. He chalked up two TDs — one on a 28-yard run and one on a 12-yard pass from O'Brien — as the Knights built a 21-7 halftime lead. DesJardins finished the night with 72 yards receiving and 42 running.
Fairview came into Friday averaging 49 points per game, but on a night that was windy and occasionally rainy, it wasn't easy to kick it into high gear.
With the victory, the Front Range League champions earned a round-of-16 matchup next weekend at ThunderRidge, which handed the Knights their only loss of the season, 28-24 on Sept. 6. In that game, Fairview fumbled the ball away at the goal line in attempting to score the go-ahead touchdown late in the contest.
"We're super excited because that's the only team that's beaten us," McCartney said. "We're focused on getting that done (avenging the loss)."
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Fairview 31, Denver East 7
At Recht FieldDenver East (8-3) 0 7 0 0 — 7
Fairview — Bryce DesJardins 28 run (Henry Blackburn kick). Fairview — Alex Kang 3 run (Blackburn kick).
Fairview — DesJardins 12 pass from Liam O'Brien (Blackburn kick). Denver East — Aaron Franklin 75 pass from Myles Patterson (Jackson Howes kick).
Fairview — Stephen O'Hara 6 run (Blackburn kick). Fairview — Blackburn 28 field goal.
RUSHING — Fairview: Fenton 13-44, DesJardins 6-42, Kang 8-29, O'Hara 2-11, Holly 4-2, O'Brien 4-(minus-3).
PASSING — Fairview: O'Brien 18-38-0-238.
RECEIVING — Fairview: Nichols 5-71, DesJardins 4-72, Fenton 4-48, Blackburn 3-29, Moser 1-16, Wood 1-2.